NYC Resiliency Task Force Urges Raised Homes, Toxic Material Safety

By | June 14, 2013

New York City’s buildings would be required to provide drinking water in common areas and have exterior plugs for temporary generators under proposals to make homes and businesses more resistant to major storms.

Those were among 33 recommendations made by the Building Resiliency Task Force, a group of more than 200 landlords, property managers, architects, attorneys, city officials and consultants formed after last year’s Hurricane Sandy caused widespread destruction and power failures. The task force, managed by the Urban Green Council, urged actions ranging from ensuring the safety of vulnerable residents to raising homes off the ground and keeping toxic materials out of floodwaters.

“Another Sandy is inevitable, and New York isn’t ready,” Russell Unger, executive director of the council, said in a statement issued today by Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office. “But it can be. The task force recommendations are tangible and economically achievable steps.”

The panel’s report came two days after the mayor proposed spending billions of dollars on infrastructure improvements to protect the city’s more than 500 miles of coastline. Sandy, the biggest Atlantic storm in history, caused 43 deaths in the city and left more than 1,000 of its people homeless, many of them in beachfront communities in Queens and Staten Island. The Oct. 29 storm flooded transit tunnels and utilities and produced a record surge that inundated lower Manhattan, rendering dozens of office and apartment towers temporarily uninhabitable.

Raised Homes

The task force recommended that buildings in the city’s newly drawn 100-year flood zone be constructed above the flood line. The group proposed a competition “to design a streetscape of attractive raised homes” that would be also be accessible to disabled people. Such homes were built in New Orleans’s devastated Lower Ninth Ward following Hurricane Katrina.

While upper floors in an apartment building require an electric pump for water service, natural pressure in the city’s water mains can serve a common faucet below the sixth floor, according to the panel, which urged that landlords be required to retrofit their properties with such a faucet.

Toilets and sinks should be made to operate without being connected to the electric grid, in case an extended blackout poses a sanitation risk, according to the 37-page report.

While protecting commercial buildings “is fundamentally a business decision for their owners,” the city has an interest in avoiding business disruption, according to the report. The panel recommended that buildings have valves to block sewage from backflowing into basements, and that equipment be raised to higher floors to prevent flood damage.

The task force also urged the city to require toxic chemicals to be stored in flood-proof areas. Hazardous materials “can turn floodwaters into a toxic soup,” the group said.

The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, parent company of Bloomberg News.

With assistance from Henry Goldman in New York. Editors: Christine Maurus, Daniel Taub

Topics New York Flood Homeowners

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